Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hearing with my Eyes

“Words convey the mental treasures of one period to the generations that follow; and laden with this, their precious freight, they sail safely across gulfs of time in which empires have suffered shipwreck and the languages of common life have sunk into oblivion.”
Tryon Edwards

An old friend once told me that when you learn a new language you gain another soul. I live this expression everyday. Growing up in bilingual house took away the “foreign” notion of flowing in and out in different languages. I’ve always loved learning languages and how words carry different meaning, and if you learn a different language you are able to express yourself in a whole new sense. More then just translating back into English—thinking in a different language. Understanding there are words that only exist in their own context. Learning Sign Language has opened up a whole different world of thoughts, expression, and feelings. I can hear with my eyes.

Finally grasping KSL was equivalent to turning on a different part of my brain. I see hands moving—but in my head I hear their meaning. Signed Language is such a beautiful way to express yourself. It also carries with it the little details that all languages have making each one peculiar little masterpiece. Facial expressions are periods, question marks, exclamation points. Signing has demanded an honesty that is sometimes refreshing and frightening—it equivalent to something being written on your face. Interacting with my students has allowed me to realize how perceptive they are. They know when I am tired, happy, and some can tell when I am feeling downright confused—even when I don’t know what I am feeling.

When they are signing they make each story come alive. They describe details using their hands, their face, and their whole heart. I love to watch them sign stories and hear them flowing with my eyes. I know when I am signing I am able to animate my thoughts and feelings in a way I could never imagine before—and perhaps gained a whole new soul.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On my own

Card for Mrs. Reep's class

I had an opportunity to attend a re-opening ceremony of a nearby Deaf school on Friday and had an amazing time. The school has a foreign sponsor and received all new buildings and funds for activities. Many people attended the event including my Deaf friend who is alum of the school. I had the opportunity to meet other alum from the school and was amazed by their stories. Many of the former students are professionals working for various organization in Nairobi, they even told me of a former student who is in the process of obtaining their P.H.D.! Seeing all these students really reaffirms the confidence I have in my students. I know how capable they are, and I hope some day they will return to St. Luke's with fond memories. With that said I know my school has a long way to go, looking at the staff and the whole atmosphere at this school. I feel a sense of optimism, there are a lot of difficulties, but I can see the opportunity for change in each of them. I also met with the school’s sponsor and tossed out some ideas for Deaf Leadership Camp, to instill pride in Deaf culture and inspire students. He seemed very interested and I will begin to get the ball rolling on that—now!

Most of these pictures are of my students except for the ones dancing (performance at the school reopening) they are Deaf dancers! The very first picture is the view from my house and the second is my neighbor Mt. Kenya. This is the last week of school and then I will be off for the month of April. I will be so sad to leave my students for a whole month I miss them if I leave for one weekend! Although I hope to come back with new and creative ideas for teach the next term.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The best light in the world

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”

Rachel Carson

It’s hard to image a place more beautiful then Africa. Routine settles in and my senses numb, but on occasion I am engulfed with the sheer splendor of the land. I fell asleep on a matatu (mini bus of death) once, and awoke to the most vibrant blues, greens, and purples all in one sky; it’s infectious and overcomes you like a teargas.

On the surface Embu can appear as a mixture of noise, people and cars but after time you begin to notice the brilliant blue of the sky- a pastel blue of an Easter egg. Huge white clouds hang over the town, and as time drags on they alter into lavender then eventually to a deep royal purple. Mount Kenya can sometimes look forbidding with its black jagged edges, but the light here in Embu transforms its rigid appearance to an unfathomable shade of purple, you appreciate the power and beauty it demands.

On my bicycle I take to the road, and trace the green hills with my wheels. The golden grass sways to the humming wind, I can feel its authority; helping or hindering my safari. I often feel like I am the only person in the whole world—all this land is my own. There is also a beauty in the rhythm of life here; life is a series of routines to survive. It can, at times seem painstakingly monotonous, until you stop trying to fight it and just realize the happiness you can find in the motions. Day to day life has become simple, and I welcome the questions, the challenge, and the unknown.